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Journalists issue fresh strike threat over regional publisher job cuts

nujlogoJournalists are threatening to take strike action over planned job cuts by a regional publisher.

Members of the National Union of Journalists working for Johnston Press in Northern Ireland are being balloted over potential industrial action due to proposed redundancies in the region.

In January JP told staff to expect a series of cutbacks across its business, with the union claiming up to 100 jobs could be lost across Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

At the time, the BBC reported that 13 of the jobs under threat were in Northern Ireland, although there has been no confirmation of this by the company.

Titles affected by any strike at the Northern Ireland publishing unit would include Belfast daily the News Letter, the bi-weekly Derry Journal and a number of weekly newspapers.

The restructure has also been met with opposition from the union in Scotland, with members of the NUJ’s Scotsman and Central Scotland threatening to strike over the potential loss of 32 jobs there.

The NUJ is making no official comment on the ballot plan, but an announcement sent to NUJ members at JP’s Northern Irish titles, which has been seen by HTFP, reveals ballot papers will be despatched on Wednesday, with members told to return them by 21 March.

The same announcement reports union membership is at a “record high” across the group.

It states: “All of us are aware of the issues and what we are fighting for in terms of VR based on three weeks pay per year of service, for threats to job cuts to be lifted until such time that we have an agreement of staffing levels, for pay that rewards work and provides salary progression in the absence of promotional opportunities.

“You all know how management have responded on these issues and how they continue to frustrate efforts to conduct meaningful negotiations.”

A Johnston Press spokeswoman said: “We are surprised and disappointed by this intended course of action.

“The management team in Northern Ireland have been working hard to put together a set of proposals about how to manage changes to the newsroom and have taken on board comments and feedback on salary and career structures.

“We have yet to discuss those proposals with the NUJ and had set a date for that to happen.​ We will be doing so next week and hope we can work with staff and the NUJ to avoid the threatened industrial action.”

 

The company has previously said that the union’s claims of 100 job cuts are a “worst-case scenario.”

14 comments

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  • March 4, 2016 at 9:16 am
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    Good luck to them but the rate of decline in circulations and revenue now is horrendous and this year will bring plenty of casualties. No company can afford to sustain such losses for too long, although I agree that the big outfits seem to spare useless “executive” staff at the expense of those with identifiable media skills who actually bring out the products that generate what revenue is left. I wish unemployment on no one but a more measured approach would be welcomed.

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  • March 4, 2016 at 10:11 am
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    What is really needed to make JP sit up and take notice is industrial action right across the board. Not just editorial staff, but everyone on their books nationwide.should join forces and show JP they mean business. It’s a sinking ship for sure but they can magic up £24 million to buy a daily title and continue to pay their senior execs fortunes while the foot soldiers are treated like slaves.

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  • March 4, 2016 at 10:23 am
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    JP do what they like with staff, though you can’t blame unions for trying. Some loyal and hard-working people have been pushed around and lost jobs. That’s the tragedy of it all.

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  • March 4, 2016 at 10:25 am
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    Accept a kick in the nuts and take redundancy. You will be glad of it. Why would you want to work for someone who doesn’t value you, your colleagues and the product?

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  • March 4, 2016 at 11:06 am
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    It’s got so bad at JPNI that in some places rival papers from neighbouring towns are moving into JP territory and opening local editions. While JP journalists are telling customers to send in their own photos the rivals are sending photographers miles out of their way to cover local events. There’s only one way that can go!

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  • March 4, 2016 at 11:27 am
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    Good luck to them all but I very sadly fear that it will lead nowhere except likely lost pay on strike days. The company is a traditional gradgrind outfit which is apparently losing even more money and like other firms is steadily losing circulations. Good idea for ALL staff to take action but very unlikely. Best to take redundo and look elsewhere – if you can. Change profession even, especially if you’re young?

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  • March 4, 2016 at 11:33 am
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    Maybe JP shareholders and directors could be asked to cough up the £400 million in dividends and bonuses they pocketed in the few years before the financial crash, which left JP with £400 million pounds of debt thanks to rash borrowing to fund a string of over-ambitious acquisitions. The victims of this combination of greed and mismanagement weren’t the ones who trousered the cash, but the staff – predominantly journalists – whose work created the profits.

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  • March 4, 2016 at 11:40 am
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    @oldad man
    If you’re unhappy leave
    No ones forcing you to stay and as John says take redundancy if it’s offered and enjoy life outside the regional press

    You’ll be much happier and far less bitter

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  • March 4, 2016 at 2:06 pm
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    JP have cut staffing to the bone. So-called contents managers are churning out two and three papers to the point of insanity. Journalists are undervalued. Photographers are an endangered species. Templates are an insult. Paging has been decimated. Websites are a joke. The ‘technology’ is creaking like a old schooner! And JP are ‘surprised’ that, after years of treating people like serfs, overdue action is on the cards!

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  • March 4, 2016 at 3:07 pm
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    Just remember you are employed by the publishing unit, not Johnston Press who’ve claimed in the past not to employ any journalists. It does matter and might scupper any action you want to take if you get it wrong.

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  • March 7, 2016 at 10:59 am
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    I don’t know if strike action will have any effect, but what’s the alternative? Roll over and die? I’m sure the publishers will recruit a whole bunch of work experience bods to keep the product coming out, but that’s not the point. The point is not to make it easy for employers to wield the axe on staff willy-nilly. Good luck to all those involved.

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  • March 7, 2016 at 1:42 pm
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    What’s wrong with these journalists!? Don’t they know that JP is a registered charity and they should be working for nothing! Another thing, Ash’s £1.6m package must be protected at all costs – including the cost to the staff’s sanity…

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